Fishing in Florida is something akin to a religion. We’ve got fresh water, salt water, deep-sea, off-shore, and every kind of style that hard-core anglers could ever want – even shark fishing! In fact, Fort Walton Beach has the longest fishing season in all of North America.

This is largely thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But the Bay has no shortage of great fishing opportunities as well. Give yourself convenient access to both by staying in our comfortable vacation homes and condos right in the heart of Fort Walton Beach.

From here, you can embark on your own independent fishing adventures or sign up for a full-day fishing charter with a skilled captain who is guaranteed to help you land a big one. So grab your favorite lures, hit the water, and cross your fingers you can hook a marlin!

About Fishing in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Here are a few things you should know as you plan your day of fishing in the Gulf.

While there are many variables when it comes to Emerald Coast fishing, a few things remain the same. Fishing charters almost always have the capacity for six people. They can accommodate a variety of trips (inshore, offshore, reef, nearshore). Charters have everything you’ll need on the boat; the big exceptions to this are sunscreen, sunglasses, extra snacks, and bottled water.

The Best Time of Year to Fish in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Keep in mind that the time of year you visit has a heavy influence on the species you’ll be fishing. The longest fishing season in all of North America means you can pretty much fish for something year-round. But the best time of year to fish in Fort Walton Beach is from March to October. Here is what you need to know.

Destin Fishing Rodeo

Every year, the shores of FWB are filled with more than 30,000 anglers set to compete in a variety of fun competitions, from off-shore fishing to kayak fishing. Even spectators can join in the festive fun by watching the weigh-ins at the end of each day. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, October could be the best month for a first-time visit.

Where to Fish in Fort Walton Beach

Photo Credit: Alejandro Guzmani

Cast your line into any body of water in or around Fort Walton, and you’ll find it teeming with life. But there are a handful of fishing spots that gather locals and visitors alike to the shores of the Gulf for a few hours of fishing fun.

  • Okaloosa Island Pier: Easy enough for all ages.
  • Liza Jackson Park: Family-friendly.
  • Marler Bridge: A favorite local spot.
  • West Jetties: The treacherous rocky terrain makes this spot best for serious anglers.
  • In front of Destin’s Coastguard Station: Another local favorite for flounder, redfish, and trout.

FWB Tackle Shops

Photo Credit: dasytnik

If you would like to do some fishing without the help of an offshore fishing charter during your trip, there are a few gear shops that can get you fully outfitted.

  • Emerald Coast Bait and Tackle: Get live bait, rods, reels, and all the apparel you need for fishing under the muggy Florida sun.
  • Half Hitch Tackle: This shop is technically located in Destin, just a short drive away from FWB. Here, you’ll find 30 years of tackle shop expertise and lots of gear for offshore fishing.

Restrictions

You need a fishing license before you cast your line into any of Florida’s waters. Head to the Florida Outdoors to purchase your freshwater or saltwater fishing licenses before the trip.

For current restrictions and info on specialty species like sharks, rays, and more, you can familiarize yourself with the regulations on the Florida Fish and Wildlife website.

Choosing a Fishing Charter

There are lots of factors when it comes to choosing the right charter for your fishing adventure. For starters, you’ll need to decide if you are looking for a half-day or a full-day trip. Many charter companies run trips of varying lengths from 4 hours to 10 hours.

You’ll also have to decide what fish species you want to target. This will affect the type of fishing charter you want whether it’s deep sea fishing charters, inshore fishing, bottom fishing, or trolling for a big-ticket species like a shark.

Best Fishing Charters in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

1. Sparkling Water Charters

Photo Credit: Lee Reese

  • Address: Eglin Parkway Northeast 198, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: fishingbooker.com/charters/view/32768
  • Target Species: Amber jack, cobia, shark, mahi mahi, grouper
  • Trips Offered: Reef-fishing, Wreck-fishing, Inshore, Offshore, Nearshore

Operating a 30’ Sea Hunt center console, this charter is family-friendly and offers a variety of trips out into the deep blue waters for all skill levels of fishermen and women. The captain is lauded for his ability to put you on top of fish quickly and easily, guaranteeing a good catch of the day.

2. Panhandle Fishing Charters

Photo Credit: Mindscape studio

  • Address: 104 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: destinfloridaboatcharters.com
  • Target Species: Amber jack, black drum, bluefish, flounder, red grouper, sheepshead, redfish, red snapper, Spanish mackerel, and more.
  • Trips Offered: Inshore, Nearshore fishing, Flats fishing, Backcountry, Night fishing, Bay and Gulf Fishing.

Panhandle Fishing Charters is one of the few FWB charters that offers lots of specialized trips so you can really tailor your trip to you. Choose between fish and fun trips for the whole family, shark fishing, bay fishing in Choctawhatchee Bay, and your typical Gulf fishing trips.

3. Sons Up Charters

Photo Credit: MPH Photos

  • Address: 1201 Miracle Strip Parkway Southeast, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: fishingbooker.com/sonsupcharters
  • Target Species: Bonito, blackfin tuna, wahoo, triggerfish, almaco and amber jack, flounder, gag grouper, red snapper, and more.
  • Trips Offered: Offshore, nearshore, reef, wreck, and deep sea fishing charters from 4-10 hours.

Jet across the water with the whole family in a top-of-the-line 27’ Cape Horn center console with twin 200 HP Suzuki engines. This charter is a family-run operation very familiar with these waters which means the likelihood of scoring a big catch is high. Captain Mike will even fillet up your catch for you at the end of the day making cooking your fresh seafood dinner back at the vacation rental a breeze.

4. Destin Inshore Charters

Photo Credit: Darryl Vest

  • Address: Miracle Strip Parkway Southeast 1318, Okaloosa Island, FL
  • Website: destininshorecharters.com
  • Target Species: Spanish mackerel, black drum, bluefish, flounder, spotted seatrout, mangrove snapper, and more.
  • Trips Offered: Bay Fishing

Welcome to the premiere fishing charter in the FWB area for bay fishing. While many anglers are interested in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the sheltered bay is teeming with diverse fish species just waiting to be hooked. If you’re looking to try your hand at spinning or light tackle this is a great fishing charter for you.

5. Liquid Prescription Fishing Charter

Photo Credit: project1photography

  • Address: 1201a Miracle Strip Parkway Southeast, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: facebook.com/Destinfishinguides
  • Target Species: King mackerel, gag grouper, bonito, red and vermillion snapper, blackfin tuna, and more.
  • Trips Offered: Inshore, Nearshore, Reef, Flats, Wreck, and Backcountry. Specializes in Bottom fishing and Trolling.

Captain Cory is a knowledgeable and professional fisherman with a speedy boat ready to get you out on the water and to the fish fast. Equipped with misters and shade, this boat is one of the best for visitors who are not used to the Florida heat.

While not the species he typically seeks out, sailfish and sharks are not an uncommon catch on his boat. Keep in mind that this slightly smaller boat only holds five people! This makes it a great budget-friendly option for smaller groups or families.

6. All Out Fishing Charters

Photo Credit: fogcatcher

  • Address: Old Ferry Road 100, Shalimar, FL
  • Website: alloutfishingllc.com
  • Target Species: Little tunny (false albacore), scup (porgy), mahi mahi, grunt, scamp grouper, almaco jack, snapper, king mackerel, and more.
  • Trips Offered: Nearshore, offshore, reef, and wreck fishing.

This renowned fishing company hosts a variety of boats, so you can choose the style that best fits your group’s needs. They even have catamaran-style boats for a spacious and comfortable fishing experience. Choose between a four and a ten-hour trip where you’ll spend your day trolling for a variety of fish and hoping to hook a swordfish in the deep or pelagic fish closer to shore.

Other Noteworthy Fishing Charters in the FWB Area

Here are a few standalone, highly recommended fishing charters that you can book through their own personal websites.

Stay With Us After a Great Day on the Water!

Fort Walton Beach has more to offer than just excellent fishing. It’s also a wonderful vacation destination for couples, families, and groups of friends looking for a scenic beach stay. Our vacation rentals have a plethora of amenities for every kind of trip. You can choose stays with heated pools, ocean views, or even a BBQ grill to properly cook your day’s catch.

Book you stay with Legacy Vacations today!

While Fort Walton Beach is a great destination for the whole family, sometimes you want to sneak away for some ‘adult-only’ fun. With beautiful white sand beaches, waterfront vacation rentals, great shopping, dining, and bars, and lots of outdoor recreation — Fort Walton Beach has plenty of ways to spend a kid-free day.

Whether you’re planning a romantic couples retreat or a getaway with friends, here are the 15 best things to do for adults in Fort Walton Beach!

Enjoy a Day at Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach is known for its pristine white sandy beaches and sparkling blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There’s no better way to spend a day on vacation than putting your toes in the sand, soaking up some sun, or going for a swim.

If you want to add some adventure to your beach day, Fort Walton Beach has plenty of watersports to choose from. Rent a kayak or paddleboard, ride a jet ski, or take the ultimate thrill ride above the water with a parasailing excursion.

To explore more of the Emerald Coast, visit some of the equally beautiful beaches of nearby Destin and Okaloosa Island, or take a day trip to Pensacola or Panama City. The entire Florida Panhandle is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!

Take a Day Trip to Crab Island

A floating oasis in the middle of the bay, Crab Island is a must-visit when traveling to Fort Walton Beach. While not actually an island in the traditional sense, it is actually a sandbar known for its incredibly clear, turquoise water where locals and visitors alike gather to socialize, play watersports, have cocktails, and enjoy food from floating vendors. Crab Island is one big party on the water!

To reach Crab Island you can rent a boat, hop on the Crab Island water shuttle, or choose from one of many local boat tours in the area. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and sea turtles on your way out there!

Eat, Play, and Shop at the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk

Photo Credit: Jason Finn

A perfect spot to spend the afternoon or evening, the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk features shops, restaurants, live music, and plenty of great views. You can stroll the pier to spot an array of marine life, including sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays, or catch an epic sunset over the water.

There are some excellent dining options here that feature fresh seafood and island fare, or grab dessert at one of the ice cream or gelato shops. Need some new beachwear or souvenirs to take home? Browse the shops for some one-of-a-kind Okaloosa Island goods.

Take a Swing at the Fort Walton Beach Golf Club

The Fort Walton Beach area is a great spot for golfers. In town, you have the Fort Walton Beach Golf Club, which boasts two beautiful championship courses. In the greater Fort Walton Beach-Destin area, you’ll find several more courses, all within 30 minutes of the beach.

Take your pick of playing 9, 18, or even 36 holes, or hit the driving range to work on your swing. Play amid gorgeous green fairways, towering pine trees, and sparkling lakes with resident alligators swimming by—all part of the charm that Florida golf courses bring!

Go Wine Tasting

Photo Credit: Werner Heiber

You might not think of Fort Walton Beach as a destination for wine, but you’d be wrong. The area boasts several spots where you can grab a great glass. Enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting and tapas at Taste Tapas and Wine Bar. Shop and sample some wine and cheese at Wine World. Or, visit the tasting room at The Twisted Grape to sample local wines, snack on charcuterie, and enjoy live music.

If you have a designated driver, Chautauqua Winery is about an hour away and well worth the drive. You can learn all about the winemaking process, tour the vineyard, and sample some wines. Don’t forget to grab a bottle to enjoy later during your vacation rental.

South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival

Wine lovers visiting Fort Walton Beach in the spring will have an extra special treat — the South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival. This event takes place in April, about 30 minutes from Fort Walton Beach, and is a must for wine lovers, foodies, and just about anyone who likes to have a good time!

Visit Local Breweries

Beer lovers rejoice — Fort Walton Beach is much more than just wine! If you’re looking for the perfect place for a pint, this town is brimming with breweries and taprooms. Pop over to Props Craft Brewery where you can watch the beer-making process in their state-of-the-art brewhouse and try their signature craft beer. Or, try Tapworks, with a whopping 60 beers on tap you’re sure to find a brew you love.

The brand-new Woodfoot Beer Compan, which just opened in 2024, has quickly gained a following for its signature IPAs, unique passionfruit sour ale, and tasty pizzas. For cozy vibes, head to the Salty Duck, a small beer pub known for their comfy couches, old-school arcade games, and over 40 beers on tap.

Explore Nature

While Fort Walton Beach is great for bringing the family out to enjoy nature – little legs and a ton of kids’ gear can shorten the day’s fun!

Fort Walton Beach is home to several parks and nature preserves where you can take a peaceful walk, hike, or bike ride while enjoying the unspoiled natural scenery. No bike? No problem — there are plenty of bike rentals to be found in Fort Walton Beach.

Take a walk or bike ride through the waterfront Liza Jackson Park, stroll through the sugar sand beaches at John Beasley Park, or get to know some gorgeous Great Blue Herons at the Veteran’s Park Rookery.

Want to get deeper into nature? About 30 minutes away, you’ll find the Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, where you can hike through pine trails, spot wildlife, and canoe or kayak on the Bayou.

Go Fishing

Want to reel in your next big catch? The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are teeming with fish, including snapper, amberjack, mahi mahi, grouper, tuna, and much more. You can reserve a fishing charter, rent a boat, or just head to the fishing pier. You’ll find everything you need for fishing gear rentals locally, with plenty of bait and tackle shops around town.

Get Cultured at the Local Museums

Fort Walton Beach is home to some fascinating historical and cultural museums that are definitely worth a visit. Learn about local Native American history and browse artifacts at the Indian Temple Mound Museum.

Walk among decommissioned aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and more at The Air Force Armament Museum. You can also learn some local history at one of the earliest schools, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, and post offices, Garnier Post Office Museum.

On Sundays, immerse yourself in Thai culture with a visit to the Wat Mongkolratanaram Buddhist Temple. You can learn about Thai culture and traditions, try some Thai cuisine, and admire the extraordinary architecture and statues that adorn the temple.

Take a Boat Tour

Photo Credit: Artiom Photo

What better way to explore the gorgeous waters off the Gulf Coast than on a boat? From snorkeling tours to sunset cruises, you’ll find a wide variety of boat tours available in Fort Walton Beach. Spend an afternoon exploring the waterways looking for wildlife, sipping champagne on an evening sunset cruise, or for a truly one-of-a-kind experience — book a dolphin cruise. Of course, you always have the option to charter your own boat and go wherever the wind takes you!

Sip, Shop, and Dine Downtown

Downtown Fort Walton Beach is a great place to spend the day. You can stroll local shops, grab coffee or lunch at a cafe, or hit up happy hour at a local bar. If you’re into arts and crafts, stop by the Fort Walton Beach Art Gallery to browse one-of-a-kind pieces from local artists and find handmade jewelry, pottery, hand-blown glass, and more.

There’s truly something for everyone to do in the downtown area. Hungry? There are plenty of great restaurants to choose from. Want to pamper yourself? Visit the nail salon, day spa, or yoga studio. Looking for some fun activities? You’ll find everything from movie theaters and mini golf to virtual reality sports and even axe-throwing rooms.

On the weekends, the Downtown Saturday Market is not to be missed. This farmer’s market features local artisans, fresh produce, and tasty treats from local bakeries.

Catch a Show

Have a penchant for the performing arts? The Fort Walton Beach area has a lively theatre scene. Catch a show at Stage Crafters, a local community theatre that puts on a variety of independent shows, including musicals, dramas, and comedies. Or, head over to the Mattie Kelly Arts Center, where you’ll find Broadway classics like Chicago, ballet and dance performances, and symphony orchestras.

Take a Scenic Drive

Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding areas are full of epic views. There’s nothing quite like taking a leisurely drive down Highway 399 with the windows down.

The mix of salty sea air and scenic views is a great way to spend the afternoon getting to know the city. You can explore the coastline, stop at local restaurants and shops, and admire the endless ocean views.

Go Antiquing

Into antiques? You never know what special treasures you might find in Fort Walton Beach. Spend the afternoon antiquing at the De’France Indoor Flea Market — the largest antique mall in the Panhandle.

Browse their large collection of antique art, collectibles, furniture, and vintage handbags, jewelry, and other items. You can also try your luck at several smaller antique shops around town, including vintage comics, collectibles, and more.

Hit Up Happy Hour

As Jimmy Buffet famously said, “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere,” and that somewhere is Fort Walton Beach. You’ll find plenty of places around town to hit up for happy hour. From beachy cocktails at the boardwalk bars to tequila tastings at Rockin’ Tacos Grill & Tequila Bar or live music and drink specials at Docie’s Dock — there’s always a great cocktail to be found!

Where to Stay in Fort Walton Beach

Looking for the perfect place to stay for your adults-only retreat? Book your stay with Legacy Vacations for beautiful beachfront vacation rentals. You’ll enjoy fully furnished condos with premium amenities and access to private beaches, pools, hot tubs, and fitness centers.

Want to create your own happy hour? Enjoy fully stocked kitchens where you can make your own cocktails and watch the sunset from your balcony overlooking the Gulf. Legacy Vacations has everything you need to relax and unwind in Fort Walton Beach!

Contrary to its name, Crab Island is neither an island nor full of crustaceans. But it is one of the most popular day-trip destinations off the coast of Destin, Florida!

The calm tropical waters of the Gulf call for travelers (and locals) with watercraft to hit the sandbar just north of the Destin Bridge and spend the day in the Florida sun. Once out on the water, you’ll be greeted by fellow beachgoers relishing the sun and local vendors selling food, drinks, and iconic souvenirs.

Legacy Vacation rentals on the sugar white sands of Fort Walton Beach are just a stone’s throw away from the Destin Harbor and the submerged sandbar of Crab Island. For those planning to visit Crab Island on their next trip to the Emerald Coast, this is everything you need to know.

A Brief History of Crab Island

At one time, this little spit of submerged sand was indeed an island. Back in the 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the depths of the Destin Pass for sand and plopped it in Choctawhatchee Bay, creating an island— then nicknamed Crab Island. This was all done to stabilize the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, this island is little more than a scenic sandbar after years of erosion and the sporadic hurricane sped its degradation.

Visits to this undersea sandbar have been so popular throughout the years that overcrowding and irresponsible behavior started to damage the oceanic environment. Since then, the National Park Service has gotten involved, and new rules and regulations are regularly introduced.

What to Do on Crab Island, Florida

When planning your fun day in the bay, knowing what exactly there is to do on Crab Island off Destin can be helpful. Here’s a glimpse of the possibilities.

1. Spot Marine Life

Photo Credit: gillmar

While humans are by far the most numerous lifeforms near the island during the day, you can also spot sea critters like dolphins, hermit crabs, and lots of fish if you plan your visit during the week or a less crowded time of year.

2. Play Frisbee or Volleyball

Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia

This is a great place to play some active water sports games while keeping cool in the shallow water. Be sure to bring your own equipment, as there is no place to rent or buy once you’ve reached the island.

3. Soak up the Sun

Photo Credit: vectorfusionart

Work on your tan in the Florida sun here. Just be sure to layer on sunscreen and use hats and sunglasses for protection because the tropical rays are intense.

4. Drink some Brews With Your Friends

Photo Credit: Meesiri

Join the party and drink homemade cocktails and beer while you hang out with your group. This is one of the most popular things for locals and tourists alike on Crab Island to do.

While there are no open-container laws in the waters of Florida, be sure to designate a boat driver and always drink responsibly.

5. Enjoy the Floating Restaurants and Food Vendors

The vendors are quite possibly the best part of Crab Island. While they vary every year, you can usually expect ice cream, seafood sandwiches, and Mexican cuisine. While you should always pack your own snacks just in case, if there are vendors operating, it’s always a good idea to support the local businesses.

6. Try Your Hand at Fishing

Whether you’ve rented a fishing charter or simply brought along a pole (not a good idea with the crowds), you can fish around the edges of Crab Island! Just be sure you have the proper fishing license.

7. Water Sports

Photo Credit: idreamphoto

While the old obstacle course and water trampolines of the floating water park are gone, there is ample room for exploration by kayak and paddleboard. Just be sure to bring your own rentals.

8. Snorkeling

Photo Credit: idreamphoto

Snorkeling and marine life may be limited in the 3-foot shallows when the crowds descend on the island, but the edges are still brimming with life. Due to the changing currents and increased depth, you should be a proficient swimmer and not consume alcohol if you plan to snorkel off the island.

Current Crab Island Rules for Visitors

  1. No Overnight Anchoring
  2. A restroom is required on commercial passenger vessels over 21′.
  3. Boaters can buy BYOB, but there is no commercial sale or distribution of alcohol.
  4. Shuttle services can no longer drop people off on Crab Island and leave them there. This puts an end to the water taxis.

Best Time to Visit Crab Island

If you want to avoid the crowds, you can always visit Crab Island during the off-season. But the information below outlines the most pleasant and popular times to visit.

Spring to Fall

Spring through fall, specifically March to October, is definitely the best time to plan your trip to Destin, Florida. During this time of year, both the water and the air will be a welcoming temperature for a day spent in the waters of the Gulf.

Summer

While the summer months bring a slightly increased risk of hurricanes, they are also the most popular time to visit Crab Island for the quintessential experience.

High Tide

The best time of day to visit Crab Island is high tide, when the water is at its clearest turquoise blue. Be sure to check the local tide charts on the day of your visit.

Essential Crab Island Packing List

Here’s a quick breakdown of the items you should throw in your boat before heading off to Crab Island.

  • Some beach towels
  • High SPF Reef-Safe lotion sunscreen
  • Sunglasses and a hat for sun protection
  • Cash and Cards. While many vendors accept cards out on Crab Island, it’s always a good idea to bring along some cash just in case.
  • Cooler with ice, water, snacks, and lunch. Once out on the water, you’ll be limited to the vendors who happen to be there during your visit. It’s better to come fully self-sufficient and prepared just in case.
  • Boating and Fishing Licenses. (If applicable) This is for travelers renting or bringing their own vessel.
  • Speakers, inflatables, Frisbees, and other forms of merriment. This is the optional gear meant to keep you and the family entertained once on the island.

Getting to Crab Island

Cruising down scenic Highway 98 across the Destin Bridge, you can see Crab Island in all its glory. But how exactly can you reach it? By boat! You cannot swim, walk, or drive to Crab Island.

Because of the seeming proximity to Destin Beach, many people die every year trying to swim to Crab Island. The currents in the areas of deeper water are strong and variable. They should not be underestimated.

Rent a Boat

To reach the sand, you can find pontoon rentals, kayaks, jet skis, or any other small watercraft rentals in Destin. This is the best option for groups and those who want to make the most of their time and spend a full day out on the sandbar.

If you do happen to go the boat rental route, be sure to designate a driver and have the proper licenses for whatever watercraft you put into the East Pass. Keep in mind, that you’ll be navigating in some shallow water.

Charter a Boat

For those of you who may be questioning your qualifications to drive said boats – a charter may be a better route for your group. This option allows you to “rent” a pontoon boat, Duffy boat, floating tiki bar boat, catamaran, or yacht that comes with a boat captain.

Travelers interested in fishing along the Gulf Coast can also charter a fishing boat for the day and easily add a stop on Crab Island to their itinerary. You can charter a boat through many companies, but one of the most reputable is Crab Island Cruises.

Join an Excursion

If you are a small group, couple, or family hoping to visit Crab Island, the most economical option will likely be to join an already planned excursion or boat tour of Crab Island. You’ll share the boat ride with other tourists and split the costs. This option is also the only one that has restrooms on board!

Crab Island Shuttle Boat

This is the cheapest and most popular excursion company to Crab Island. Round-trip tickets cost between $45 to $55 depending on the duration of your stay on the island, and you will simply float out through the clear water to the sandbar, spend a few hours enjoying it, and return to Destin.

Crab Island Adventure Tour

This tour, however, is a jam-packed, adrenaline-filled itinerary of snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, shelling, dolphin-spotting, watersports, and more. You’ll also get to experience Crab Island. This tour is great for families or people looking to get the full Destin water experience. Prices range from $69-$85 per person, depending on the duration of the trip.

What to Know Before You Go

Can You Stay Overnight on Crab Island?

No. The closest you can get to an overnight stay on Crab Island is overnight docking your private boat off the shores of Crab Island out in the deeper water.

Is Crab Island Family-Friendly?

Yes! Lots of families take to the idyllic green waters for a myriad of activities. The Adventure Tour I mentioned above is especially popular for visiting families with pre-teen and teen children.

Do keep in mind that Crab Island is a popular destination for festive beverage celebrations, and there will likely be lively crowds and the music that comes with them.

Where to Stay Near Crab Island

Crab Island is the perfect addition to your Destin vacation. Most visitors to the scenic sandbar will be coming from the town of Destin. While there are many neighborhoods you could base yourself on, our favorite is Fort Walton Beach near Okaloosa Island.

This small Florida panhandle city is within 10 minutes of the harbor and offers a plethora of unique attractions and activities to keep you busy during your stay. Not to mention, it’s also home to the best beaches in the area. Think soft white sand and emerald green waters.

Can’t Miss Local Events

While actual hosted events on Crab Island aren’t numerous, a handful draw some crowds. Every summer, the Crab Island Boat Party fills the water with boats. The 4th of July, Memorial Day, and other national holidays are always a crowd favorite.

Whether these events are social gatherings to plan your trip around or crowded events to avoid is up to you.

Stay With Us in Fort Walton Beach!

After a blistering day in the Florida sun, you’ll want a comfortable, quiet beachfront rental to rest in. Browse our group-friendly properties or cozier stays for a romantic getaway when planning your trip to Destin. Just a 20-minute transit from Crab Island, you’ll be perfectly situated for all kinds of beachfront adventures.

Sandwiched between Destin, the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” and Pensacola, the westernmost city in the Panhandle, you’ll find the friendly beach-loving town of Fort Walton Beach, FWB to the locals. This little seaside town is known for its beautiful beaches, Emerald green water, and a robust menu of activities. Our Legacy Vacations rentals are conveniently located around Fort Walton Beach’s shores, near the best attractions for family vacations, romantic getaways, or lively trips with friends.

Here’s what travelers can do in Northwest Florida’s Fort Walton Beach on their next visit.

1. Take a Day Trip to the Infamous Crab Island

BYO boat and head out to the shallow submerged sand bar of Crab Island for a day of fun in the sun. You can join a group tour for a quick 3-hour visit at high tide or rent yourself a pontoon boat and spend the whole day splashing around in the Florida sun.

2. Explore the Best Beaches of the Emerald Coast

Photo Credit: The Sturdy Table

The blindingly white soft sands of Destin and Fort Walton Beach area are made from Appalachian quartz tumbled and ground into fine dust over the last few thousand years. Not only has it created stunningly scenic stretches of sand, but some of the very best barefoot beaches in all of the United States.

Before you take a dip in the clear cool waters though be sure to check the flags to be sure it’s advisable due to the currents.

James Lee Park

This Destin Beach access point has free parking, snow-white sand, emerald waters, and lots of picnic benches.

Henderson Beach State Park

Yet another public access point with ample parking, pavilions, stunning stretches of sand, and picnic and BBQ services. Since this is a state park the parking is paid and because of this, the beach is often less crowded.

Norriego Point

This “end of the line” beach faces the Destin Bridge and is a haven for snorkelers and divers as well as jetskiers and those just looking for a scenic stretch of sand to lay out on. Here, you’ll find the waters to be calmer than most of the other beaches in the area. At low tide, you can also explore tide pools and spot hermit crabs and fish.

John Beasley Park

Swimming, fishing, and strolling the sand for shells can all be done here on this lovely Okaloosa Island Beach. Framed by grasses and emerald waters, this beach is a favorite with sunbathers looking for a little peace and quiet. Just don’t forget to bring your umbrella if you’re hoping for some sun protection.

Tip: Right next door to the beach you’ll find the Emerald Coast Visitor Center. Here, you can get additional ideas about what to do in this lovely region of Florida.

Okaloosa Island

It’s not just the lovely beaches here that make this island a noteworthy stop for any visitor. Here you can also walk the boardwalk, and visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Okaloosa Island Pier, and Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone.

3. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

This marine park does it all. Here you’ll learn about the local flora and fauna of Northwestern Florida and have the opportunity to get up-close, and sometimes hands-on encounters, with the on-site animals. The Gulfarium hosts dolphin and sea lion shows and has a massive gulf Sea Turtle rehabilitation program that has been responsible for releasing hundreds of healthy sea turtle babies into the ocean since 2015.

If your family is filled with animal lovers, then you should also pay a visit to the Emerald Coast Zoo, just a 45-min drive inland from FWB.

4. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone

Every small town in America worth its salt has one of these classic kid-friendly amusement parks. Here you’ll find mini-golf alongside go-karts, bumper boats, a ropes course, and a 4d movie theatre. If you have young children, Wild Willy’s is a must-visit. Oh, and did we mention everything is Dinosaur-themed?

5. Okaloosa Island Pier

Photo Credit: Alejandro Guzmani

Stretching out more than 1,200 feet over the Gulf of Mexico, this skinny fishing pier is perfect for an afternoon walk or to spot marine life with the kids. It’s a local’s favorite destination around sunset or sunrise when you can watch the anglers reel in their catch of the day. Keep in mind, there is a small $2 fee to walk the pier.

6. Go Shopping at Downtown Fort Walton Beach

Nicknamed the Miracle Strip Parkway, scenic highway 98 cuts through Downtown Fort Walton Beach and offers shopaholics lots of options to snag some souvenirs. You can even walk to the shops from the nearby historical museums.

Two Saturdays a month, you can also stroll the local farmers’ market in downtown FWB.

7. Visit One of the Dog-Friendly Parks and Restaurants

Photo Credit: Daniel Megias

There are a handful of furry-friendly eateries and activities in Fort Walton Beach, so if you are traveling with your pup, be sure to hit Liza Jackson Park to play some fetch. Or just pay the park a visit to people-watch and pet other people’s dog-friends. After the park, grab some lunch at The Cowhead, where dogs are more than welcome.

8. Throw Some Axes at The Ratchet Hatchet

Unleash your inner Viking and sling some axes at The Ratchet Hatchet’s state-of-the-art lanes and targets. You (and your dog) are welcome, and beer is available on-site.

9. Partake in Some Water Sports

Photo Credit: Paul Brennan

Floridians love their on-the-water activities. Whether it’s pontoon boat rentalsparasailing rentals, kite-boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, or jet skis, there is no shortage of things to do in the green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the most popular gear rentals is the clear-bottomed kayak to spot colorful marine life in the vibrant waters.

10. Snorkel Our Incredible Reefs

The reefs can be found on Okaloosa Island at Beasley Park and Beach Access 2, 4, and 6, as well as Henderson Beach West, Henderson Beach East, and James Lee Park in Destin.

11. Pay a Visit to One of the Fort Walton Beach Museums

Like much of the East Coast, history plays a huge part in the local culture in Florida. Museums are plentiful here but these first four are located right in the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach and can all be visited on a leisurely walk with the family.

Garnier Post Office Museum

Located in downtown Fort Walton Beach, this historic building holds artifacts from the 1910s-50s postal era and is now a part of the Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park and Cultural Center.

Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum

Before the days of Fort Walton Beach, the town of Camp Walton existed. This two-room structure was the schoolhouse.

Fort Walton Temple Mound

While this space isn’t technically a museum, it is within the museum grounds and bears an important historical significance to the people of Fort Walton Beach. Here, you’ll find a 12-foot by 223-foot mound created by the Mound Builder Culture back in 800-1400 C.E. It’s the largest of its kind and was likely used as a ceremonial and political center for the prehistoric people.

Indian Temple Mound Museum

This is arguably the most important museum on this list. (It’s also where you’ll pay an entrance fee for all the above-listed museums in the Heritage Park and Cultural Center. Here, you and your family can admire 12,000 years of Native American history on display with artifacts made of clay, bone, and shell, as well as a massive collection of prehistoric ceramics.

A handful of Civil War exhibits are strewn about the grounds of the Heritage Park and Cultural Center.

Air Force Armament Museum

Unlike the other museums on this list, the Air Force Armament Museum is located about 7 miles North of FWB rather than downtown in the Heritage Park and Cultural Center. Here you’ll find many early aviation warfare pieces, including some of the world’s fastest planes. This is a great place for history buffs and WW2 enthusiasts and admission is free.

12. Enjoy Some Family Fun at the Emerald Coast Science Center

This hands-on, kid-friendly center of learning has been around since the 80s. If you want your vacation to border on educational for your child, this is a great way to spend a rainy or too-humid kind of day indoors.

13. Play A Round of Golf

There is no shortage of golf courses in the Florida panhandle area. Just within Destin and FWB, there are around 20 golf courses within 20 miles of one another. The most highly rated are:

  • Regatta Bay Golf and Yacht Club
  • Kelly Plantation Golf Course
  • Emerald Bay Golf Club
  • Fort Walton Beach Golf Club

14. Take Surf Lessons

Thanks to the placid water of the Gulf, Fort Walton Beach is the PERFECT place to try your feet at surfing for the very first time. With soft, sandy seashore and no rollers, it’s bound to be a tranquil experience rather than an adventurous one. Check out the Gulf Coast Surf School for more information.

15. Experience Sea Turtle Nesting and Release Season

Photo Credit: GKlps

If you time your visit to Destin and FWB perfectly, you could spot some Loggerhead, Green, Kemp’s Ridley, and Leatherback sea turtles with the family. See them at the reefs, off the Okaloosa Island Pier, or during nesting season between May and October when they lay their eggs on the white sandy beaches.

16. Hop Through Our Local Breweries

If you’re a beer enthusiast you’re in luck. FWB has no shortage of taprooms and breweries. A few of our local favorites include:

  • World of Beer
  • Destin Brewery
  • Props Brewery and Taproom
  • Bevadoor Room
  • KC’s Sandbar
  • Papa Joe’s Hideaway
  • The Boardroom

17. Savor Our Best Seafood Selections

Photo Credit: pausestudio

Destin and FWB are known for their Mahi, Snapper, calamari, basically anything that can be pulled out of the sea. Stewby’s Seafood Shanty is the #1 place in the FWB area to score some fresh seafood, but foodies will be delighted to find that most restaurants in the area are above average when it comes to beach eats.

18. Take a Sunset Cruise or Dolphin Tour

Companies like Sunshine Destin offer sunset sailings to spot dolphins in the Gulf, as well as daytime trips to locate the speedy undersea mammals. Romantic scenic sunset cruises are also available for a more intimate tour of Fort Walton’s shoreline.

19. Hire a Fishing Charter and Try Your Hand at the Deep

Photo Credit: Dmitry Chulov

Fishing is a classic Floridian pastime, and from Fort Walton Beach you can charter a fishing boat and hit the ocean for your very own chance to reel in a big one. This is great for a family vacation or a bachelor getaway. Check in with Sunshine Fishing Charters or Blue Water Escape Charters for opportunities to catch all different types of fish depending on the season.

20. Drive the Scenic Highway 98 Along the Gulf of Mexico

Cutting right through the heart of Fort Walton Beach, this scenic roadway is framed by ocean and sand. You can’t miss it. Another exceptionally scenic drive in the area is Highway 399 along the hair-thin island of Santa Rosa. Framed by white sand beaches on both sides and the stunning calm clear waters of the bay, this alone makes the drive to Pensacola worthwhile.

Come See What FWB Has to Offer!

Fort Walton Beach is the crown jewel of the Emerald Coast. From driving the Miracle Strip Pkwy to the stunning beaches or the animal encounters, this town is just fun for the whole family. Sleep soundly at one of our comfortable vacation rental properties in the heart of downtown or along the beach.

If you’re seeking a destination that combines pristine beaches, warm hospitality, and a calendar brimming with exciting events, Fort Walton Beach is the perfect choice. In Fort Walton Beach, visitors will find a range of fun events throughout the year to cater to any interests. Whether you are celebrating the holidays, getting out on the water or enjoying local art and culture, there is something for everyone. Our events held throughout the year offer a wide range of experiences that connect visitors with the local culture and community in a way only the Emerald Coast can do. Check out these Fort Walton Beach annual events and mark your calendar for your next visit!

March

Fort Walton Beach lets the good times roll with a Mardi Gras celebration every year in the heart of downtown. A lively parade winds down Eglin Parkway, with colorful floats tossing out beads and treats, as well as an official Mardi Gras Krewe leading the festivities. The party continues with a block party and live music along Ferry Road throughout the afternoon. Come down early to grab a spot for this free, family-friendly event.

April

Enjoy the sea breeze and kick off a great spring season with two days of kite flying fun on the beach! The annual Spring Kite Festival in Fort Walton Beach is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the simple joy of flying a kite, with free lessons, stunt kite exhibitions and giant show kites flying high over the beach. This free event is fun for all ages and takes place at the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk the first weekend of April.

Celebrate local Native American heritage in late April at the Musical Echoes Native American Flute Festival. This two-day event includes traditional dancing, live music, local art vendors and a flute maker competition. All events will take place at Fort Walton Beach Landing Park and admission is free for all ages, with donations appreciated.

May

Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival kicks off in late May with a swashbuckling takeover of Fort Walton Beach. Over the course of a weekend, acrew of pirates invades, with full-scale exciting pirate battle reenactments taking place at Fort Walton Beach Landing. After the battle is won and celebrated with a fireworks display, a Torchlight Parade moves down Eglin Parkway to distribute the pirate loot to the crowds. This fun and family-friendly event is an annual crowd-pleaser and should not be missed!

July

The whole Emerald Coast is alive with patriotism and fireworks displays around the 4th of July, where Independence Day celebrations abound in Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding communities. Enjoy food and live entertainment at Fort Walton Beach Landing on July 4th, topped off with an incredible fireworks display. For a quieter experience, head to Okaloosa Boardwalk or the beach. With many other communities like Destin offering fireworks displays on the same night, you may be able to see a panoramic view. For a bonus show on July 3rd, head to Destin Commons, where the Star-Spangled Food Truck Festival offers a variety of local food, as well as live music and dancing before the fireworks display at dusk.

August

Visitors in mid-August will enjoy the excitement of Boat Week and the Emerald Coast Poker Run. This boating celebration draws marine craft enthusiasts from all over to showcase their boats and participate in fun events. The week culminates with the Poker Run, which is a timed event where boaters maneuver around the bay to collect a playing card at 5-7 stops, in the hopes of putting together a winning poker hand. After the run, boaters will play their hand at the Poker Run party for a chance at grand prizes. Spectators can watch the event from the shore or buy a ticket to the Poker Run party, which also includes food and entertainment, blackjack and roulette games and a silent auction. Proceeds from the Poker Run benefit local charities and youth organizations.

September

In mid-September, family fun awaits at the Northwest Florida Fair! This classic fun fair includes amusement rides, midway games, a petting zoo, fair food and an art show. Admission is $5 and free for kids under 10 years old (amusement rides ticketed separately). This event is open for a week and includes free parking, making it a great option for visitors to stop in for some carnival fun.

October

 Put on your lederhosen to celebrate Oktoberfest in Fort Walton Beach. Held at Fort Walton Elks Lodge, this party has the classic Bavarian influence with a Florida flavor. Enjoy great beer and food, with live music and games all evening. Tickets are $20 and children under 12 get in for free.

The month of October also brings the Destin Fishing Rodeo. This 31-day event includes a fishing competition with daily weigh-in, a Destin Rodeo 5K Run, the Destin Seafood Festival and more! Anglers of all ages are welcome to compete in the rodeo on any type of watercraft, and spectators are encouraged to attend the daily weigh-ins, where anglers will show their daily catch.

December

The holiday season in Fort Walton Beach offers many events from mid-November through the end of the year. The Christmas Parade in Fort Walton Beach is an annual favorite in early December, with cheerful floats, marching bands and Santa Claus winding down Eglin Parkway. Another great nearby event is the Destin Holiday Boat Parade, where festively decorated boats cruise the harbor and a fireworks display lights up the night. Stop by the Mistletoe Market earlier in the day to pick up gifts and try festive samples.

Where to Stay in Fort Walton Beach

Legacy Vacations offers over 70 Fort Walton Beach vacation rentals, with Gulf front condos in 16 different resort complexes. Our beautiful Fort Walton Beach rentals allow you and your family to immerse yourself in the distinctively southern coastal lifestyle each time you visit. You’ll find fully equipped kitchens, comfortable living spaces, and other amenities like balconies, direct beach access, beautifully landscaped pool areas, fitness centers, and more.

Book a vacation rental with Legacy Vacations today and experience the charm of the Emerald Coast! We can’t wait to host you in one of our Fort Walton Beach accommodations.

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Fort Walton Beach, Florida offers a delightful alternative to the traditional festivities at home. Imagine enjoying the holiday long weekend with your family in this laid-back beach town, soaking up the sun’s warmth with the sound of gentle waves in the background. 

Late November in Fort Walton Beach is a perfect time to escape the winter chill. Pleasant temperatures range from 65°F to 75°F, making it a very comfortable time of year for outdoor activities. It is a popular time to visit, but less crowded than peak summer season, allowing for a more relaxed and peaceful visit. 

Thanksgiving Dinner

For a casual beachside Thanksgiving dinner, go to The Crab Trap in Fort Walton Beach. This breezy waterfront restaurant offers a traditional Thanksgiving holiday menu as well as plenty of non-traditional seafood options. Another great option close to Okaloosa boardwalk is Angler’s Beachside Bar & Grill, a laid-back beachfront seafood restaurant.

On the bay side of Okaloosa Island, The Gulf will be offering both traditional and Cajun-style Thanksgiving menu items. This stylish restaurant has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy the bayfront scenery, but reservations are required, so plan ahead!

For a traditional Thanksgiving feast, head to Emerald Grande at Harborwalk Village, where visitors can choose between brunch or a special 3-course holiday meal. Reservations are required.

Things to Do

Start your Thanksgiving Day off with a fun run at the 30A10K in Rosemary Beach or the Pensacola Beach Turkey Trot. Both races are located an hour’s drive from Fort Walton Beach. For those who are in town the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Sandestin Turkey Trot 5K is a nearby option for a fun morning activity the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, sports fans may enjoy the Emerald Coast Classic tournament. Eight NCAA men’s basketball teams will compete in a two day tournament held at the Northwest Florida State College Arena in nearby Niceville.

Start your Black Friday off by heading to the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk to shop for beachy souvenirs or outdoor gear. Grab a bite at one of the waterfront restaurants, then head out onto the fishing pier to watch local wildlife and anglers while enjoying the ocean breeze.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, kick off the holiday season in Seaside, Florida with the Turn on the Town event. This is a fun way to jumpstart your holiday cheer with a tree lighting, photos with Santa, special performances and more.

Where to Stay

Staying in a vacation rental in Fort Walton Beach provides a number of benefits for you and your loved ones. Vacation rental units allow you to live like a local, while still being conveniently located close to attractions and the beach. Our units offer more space and privacy than you would find in a hotel, making them perfect to share with family or other couples/friends. Our fully equipped kitchens mean you can cook your Thanksgiving meal at home, or at least prepare breakfasts or lunches so that every meal doesn’t have to be at a restaurant. And amenities like private balconies, large pools and beach services can really elevate your vacation. A spacious and fully-equipped vacation rental is the perfect place to gather with your loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving!

For your Thanksgiving getaway, check out Island Princess, a three-bedroom condo rental with a private ocean view balcony. This large unit is ideal for 1-2 families, and offers expansive views of the Gulf, as well as a heated pool and direct beach access. For smaller groups, cozy Island Surf offers a private balcony where you can view dolphins, with the beach only steps away. This unit is located in a quiet, family-friendly beachfront complex close to the attractions of Okaloosa Island. If you are looking for stunning views while eating Thanksgiving dinner, check out the minimalist ambiance at Emerald Towers or the extra large balcony at Pelican Isle Penthouse.

Whether you’re lounging on the beach, participating in holiday events, or savoring a delicious Thanksgiving meal, Fort Walton Beach provides a memorable holiday experience. Consider booking a vacation rental for added comfort, space, and convenience, and make this Thanksgiving one to remember!

As summer draws to a close, there is no better way to bid farewell to the season than by spending Labor Day weekend in beautiful Fort Walton Beach on Okaloosa Island. Nestled along Florida’s pristine Emerald Coast, this charming coastal town is the perfect place to enjoy the white sand, turquoise waters and laid-back culture the area is known for. 

Since it is the last holiday of summer, Labor Day weekend tends to bring crowds to Fort Walton Beach, so visitors should expect increased traffic and longer lines at popular attractions. However, with plenty of coastline to explore and lots of activities, it’s not difficult to find a quiet spot.

Labor Day weekend in Fort Walton Beach is typically hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 85 – 90°(F) during the day. Visitors should be prepared to stay hydrated and protect themselves from the sun. While there is always a chance of rain, September is typically one of the drier months in Fort Walton Beach, so visitors can expect plenty of sunshine over the Labor Day weekend. Throughout September, the summer heat begins to subside and crowds will thin out as well, making it an excellent reason to extend your vacation. 

Things to Do in Fort Walton Beach Over Labor Day

 

Visit the Okaloosa Boardwalk

This beachside collection of shops and restaurants is a lively place where you can find fresh local seafood and any beach gear you need. The Boardwalk also hosts weekly events including pirate shows, outdoor movies and live music. The nearby Okaloosa Pier is an excellent place to go fishing or spot local marine life. Over Labor Day weekend, there will be a fireworks show starting at 9pm on Sunday, with the best views from the beach in front of the Boardwalk.

Explore downtown Fort Walton Beach

Over Labor Day weekend, catch some free outdoor live music at Fort Walton Beach Landing on September 1 from 6-8pm. Enjoy an evening of strolling along downtown Fort Walton Beach with the Art Walk on September 2. This event features beautiful handmade crafts and art from local artisans, with specials offered by area restaurants and shops along the route. 

Beach Day

The stunning emerald waters and white sand of Fort Walton Beach is calling you! If you want to be in the heart of the action, the beach in front of the Boardwalk is lively and close to restaurants and shops. For a more serene atmosphere, head to John Beasley Park, a laid-back stretch of sand with pavilions, parking and restroom facilities. For a break from the crowds, drive to rustic Princess Beach, where the lack of amenities and long walk from the road tend to make it less popular, but still well worth a visit!

Enjoy Water Sports

The clear, warm Gulf is Mexico water is irresistible to fans of water sports. Fort Walton Beach is an ideal place for beginners to learn how to surf on consistent waves. To get a different perspective of the area, give parasailing a try. Visitors of all ages will enjoy parasailing for a thrilling experience with spectacular views, and adrenaline seekers will love zipping through the emerald waves on jet skis.

Boat, Paddle or Float

Rent a pontoon boat, kayak or paddleboard from Island Watersports to enjoy the water at a slower pace. Head over to Crab Island to join the floating party with hundreds of paddlers and boaters. This shallow sandbar is only accessible by water and is a popular summer hangout for locals and visitors alike.

Go Fishing

Fort Walton Beach is known for excellent fishing and there are no shortage of options to cast a line. The best pier fishing is found on Okaloosa Pier, where anglers can catch king mackerel and black fin tuna. Deep-sea and in-shore fishing is popular as well, with several expert charter companies offering trips to find red snapper, amberjack and more.

Encounter Wild Dolphins

Embark on a thrilling adventure to see dolphins in their natural habitat in Fort Walton Beach. From large glass-bottomed boats to up-close viewing from a catamaran, there are plenty of dolphin tour options to delight everyone in your group.

See Local Marine Life

Pay a visit to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park to see marine animals from the Gulf of Mexico, including dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays and more. This family-friendly facility offers animal encounters through touch tanks and snorkeling, as well as entertaining dolphin shows.

Visiting Fort Walton Beach over Labor Day weekend promises an unforgettable experience. With gorgeous beaches, plenty of water fun, and a lively atmosphere, a trip to Fort Walton Beach is great way to close out the summer. Pack your bags, book your vacation rental and make the most of your Labor Day weekend in Fort Walton Beach!